When you get bad news, how long does it take for you to get past it?
A few days? Hours? Minutes?
Years ago, if I got bad news it would have a negative effect on my mood for days. It was impossible for me to see past the pain and sadness of bad news. After decades of living like this, I got tired. Every time something unexpected happened I felt like I was drowning. I had to do something different.
So, for the last few years, I searched for answers. With every extra moment I had. I read, watched interviews, meditated. I did it all. I was specifically searching for insight into how people made it through tough situations. Whether the interviewer was famous or not, the common response was they “changed their perspective” or “shifted their mindset.”
But what does that really mean? And, how could I change my perspective? It took me a long time to even begin to figure this out. When I say long, I really mean long. I just didn’t get it. But I kept searching for something new. A new way of presenting this idea. Eventually, it came. I had a small breakthrough and it was totally a vomit-inducing cliché moment.
My job was sucking the soul out of me. So every chance I got, I went outside for fresh air, sunlight, and walking. This particular day was really bad. I didn’t want anyone to speak to me. I struggled through the office standard 1 o’clock lunch hour because I didn’t want to have lunch time chatter. The hunger pangs I was having were insane, but the mere thought of having to deal with certain people’s conversation was worse. As the lunchroom began to clear out, I went out for lunch.
Chipotle required a car drive, gave me sunlight, and, because of the wait, it also quite a bit of time outside the office. I returned to the lunchroom to hopefully eat alone and uninterrupted. As I took my first bite of my soft taco, I noticed it. The question that was phrased perfectly for me. On the bag my food came in was quote on in large bold print:
“Often in life, the most important question we can ask ourselves is: do we really have the problem we think we have?” ― Sheri Fink
That was THE question. Were these sad situations really as bad as I thought they were? Was the news preventing me for moving forward? Did something irreparable happen? No, no, and no.
There were other job opportunities, more guys to date, and more caring people willing to give me another chance. I was letting the sadness of something small but painful totally take over me. When I considered the actual problem with my mind only it was WAY smaller than how my emotions reacted. That was the shift. Or at least the first step of it. I needed to not focusing on the problem at all. I needed to see the problem in relation to everything that I was doing.
I was wasting time being sad because I was over-stating the problem.
My emotions led my brain to react as though the sky was falling. That’s why I constantly got caught up in the sadness spiral. Every time something bad happened I got derailed. Totally off the tracks. Needed to evacuate myself from the world for a long period of time before I could be normal again. It really was a double dose of annoyance. First I was sad about whatever happened. That was at least a couple of days. Then I would realize I wasted two days and would be frustrated and sad for at least a few more days! It was crazy but that’s how deep down the rabbit hole my sadness would spiral. Needless to say, those few more days were the first things to go.
I let bad news disrupt how I viewed myself when it really only affected a small part of a passing segment of my life.
That was the second step. I needed to realize that just because I get bad news didn’t mean there’s something wrong with me. The lost opportunity or missed connection didn’t mean I wasn’t good enough. It meant that I needed to change my actions. Do better with how I present myself, manage my time, or build my network. It didn’t mean I wasn’t worthy.
I’ve kept a copy of that bag ever since that day. I’ve continued to search for ways to continuously improve my mindset. As a result, I’ve developed a more proactive and positive outlook on my life. Almost to the point that I didn’t think sadness spirals were a problem anymore. I thought I was much better. Maybe, I was cured!
Well, GOD and the Universe are very smart. They give me exactly what I need. Right when I don’t think I need it. They decided to test me yesterday morning. And I wasn’t alone so I couldn’t play myself into thinking that I was totally changed. My boyfriend, aka Mr. Positivity, was with me. I got some bad news. He let me release for about seven minutes without saying anything about my reaction. Then his give-her-some-time-to-vent-tolerance clock ran out. He reminded me of my options and told me to move on. The nerve of him!
Naturally, I didn’t like his “realistic” pressure, but his prodding forced me to remember that I already knew how to handle this situation. I had already come up with a plan. I just forgot it in this moment because, to be honest, I had been on a good news streak. This was the first piece of unexpected bad news and it was trying spiral into the pit of my spirit like bad news had done for so many decades before. So, first, I kept myself from letting my sadness turn to anger directed toward my boyfriend. Then, I tried to remember what got me out of the last sadness spiral. I remembered it and things began to feel better.
Literally within 20 minutes of calming down and moving on, I got more good news. That’s when I decided to write this piece. I couldn’t risk forgetting these steps ever again. So for my personal reference and anyone who deals with the same struggle, here are the steps I take to stop a sadness spiral.
1. Take note of the time.
Your goal is only dwell in this space for 3–5 minutes tops. You may start with one day, then half a day, then an hour, then 15 minutes. But your target is literally seconds. The faster you move your mind after getting bad news the faster you will find a solution to the problem.
2. Assess yourself.
What are you really feeling? Make sure mentally and physically you are ok. If you’re note safe and of sound mind call someone. Let them know how you’re feeling. Cry if you have to. Don’t let these thoughts and feelings stay inside. If, by hearing your own thoughts, you aren’t able to realize that you’re trippin’ a good friend will help you see that.
3. Assess your control over the situation.
Do you have any control over what just happened? How much control? 100 percent? 50 percent? 10 percent? The less control you have the less bothered you should be. Please note that prevention and control are not the same thing. You may feel bad because you may have been able to prevent the situation. That doesn’t the fact that it did happen is your fault. Focus on what you control. Your control of what happened is important. But more important is your control on how you respond. You control 100 percent of your response. Spend your mental energy on that. Decide what you did wrong or could do differently. Determine how you can positively react. Then move on.
4. Remind Yourself
NOTHING but death is permanent. And even that is only death of a body not the spirit that lies within it. So, whatever happened will pass. Life goes on if you let it. This will not be the most important thing in your world very long let alone forever. Just chill out. Seriously. Please.
5. Look Ahead
There is always something better coming down the pipeline. ALWAYS. A new opportunity that requires you to know the lesson that you just learned. Or a more beneficial opportunity. In the Universe, everything must stay in balance. The trees grow because there is rain. Spiders balance out the flying bug population by killing the bugs they catch in their webs. For every yin there is a yang. There will always be something better in store. Whether it’s how you enjoy the cool side of the pillow after a nightmare, or a more perfect job opportunity after you turn down the money-maker that just doesn’t fit right. There will always be something better. It may take a while but it will come. Just stay on track and wait for the positive afterglow.
This piece originally appeared on NiaJackson.com.
My purpose in life is to teach people how to change their perspective on their challenges so they can succeed much quicker. Check out more of my thoughts on self-awareness, entrepreneurship, and personal growth on my website.